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Lorry firm fined for death of lone scrap metal worker

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A used truck dealership has been fined £475,000 after a man was killed when the roof of a lorry trailer he was dismantling collapsed on him at an industrial estate in Wolverhampton.


Wolverhampton Crown Court heard how Mr Price died from severe head injuries when the roof weighing up to three quarters of a ton toppled onto him while at work for ATE Truck and Trailer Sales Ltd.

HSE inspector on the case, Judith Botwood, told Safety Management that there had been no risk assessment for the task. Self-employed scrap metal merchant, Mr Price had been working with two colleagues at ATE’s premises, but on the day of the incident, 21 February 2013, he was alone as his co-workers had retired.

Judith explained how in January 2013 it had been agreed with ATE that Mr Price would continue to work. ATE buys end of lease trailers to dismantle and sell on and they had a longstanding arrangement to export flatbeds to Europe for sale. Mr Price would cut the roofs and keep the value of whatever he made from the scrap.

To do the work he brought his own forklift truck onto site to support the heavy vehicle roof while cutting the sides, doors, legs and other parts. It was ‘inherently unsafe’, she said. “A risk assessment should have been made available to Mr Price. Had this been done, Mr Price would have had the opportunity to consider the method and safety of his own work.”

On the day of the incident Mr Price was at work on a curtain-sided trailer in Marston Industrial site, an eight-acre site the firm used to store the old trailers.

He had been seen by an ATE employee that day, who greeted him hello as he came onto site. Half an hour later, he saw the roof on its side and went to investigate.

He found Mr Price lying between the trailer and its roof, with fatal injuries.

“We don’t really know what happened on that day but the forklift truck was found near the front of the vehicle, not anywhere near the roof area. It would seem as though Mr Price was in the process of cutting the rear legs and the roof collapsed – it went towards him and hit him on the head and he died at the scene.”

HSE found there had also been no risk assessment for ATE’s own employees, even though they would do the same work, although not as often as Mr Price, said Judith.

She said ATE staff had worked out a system for themselves using a crane. This was also not ideal but would have been safer for Mr Price.

“It’s a lot safer to have chains around the [lorry superstructure] held by a crane than to have it swinging open on the forks of a lift truck,”
she said.

“In most cases forklifts wouldn’t reach the half way point of the roof. It might give a little bit of stability. Roofs are half to three quarters of a ton in weight, so they’re not going to stop it falling anywhere except backwards possibly.

“ATE at least should have had a risk assessment for their own employees undertaking the task. They should have had a risk assessment and discussed the method Mr Price would use.”

ATE Truck and Trailer Services Ltd of Stafford Road, Wolverhampton pleaded guilty to breaching regulation 3 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

ATE’s failure was high culpability and the risk was death, putting it into harm category 1 according to the sentencing guidelines.

The range of fine was £625,000 to £750,000 but ATE earned a third reduction for its early guilty plea.

At the sentencing on 16 May, Judge Barry Berlin said: “The company had fallen far short of industry standards, which were for the company to have properly considered the risks and gone on to create safe methods of work and properly warn employees of the risks involved.”

ATE was founded in 1994 for the ‘sale and reimbursement of trailers and commercial vehicles’. It has a net worth of £1.5m.

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